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NIHIL NOVUM SUB SOLE

1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

Spartacus: “Freedom or death”

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Throughout History, the slavery of human beings by others has been an omnipresent reality. The slaves came mainly from wars, which were so usual.

In the Roman world they were mostly an important source of energy because the slaves were those doing the physical work. But freedom is the necessary requirement or condition to have a real human life and therefore in every slave’s heart was concealed a desire of freedom and rejection to slavery.

In History there are many episodes and men who fought to get their freedom. Actually the entire History of mankind, of Humanity, can be summarized in the History of the fight for freedom. Freedom is the most precious good (possession) of men.

Spartacus was one of the most famous men who fought for freedom. He was a Roman slave of Thracian origin, and then he was a gladiator, who lived in the first century BC. He led a rebellion of slaves against their owners. He was a “mirmillón” gladiator (who fought only with a sword and a helmet). He escaped from the gladiator school in Capua and led a struggle of thousands of slaves (according to ancient sources 70,000 men joined him) from year 73 to 71 BC to regain their freedom. He held in check the Roman legions, two consuls, two magistrates, a proconsul ... who were beaten by him several times until he was murdered in Lucania, a region in southern Italy, in the year 71 BC.

We’ve got so little information about Spartacus that makes impossible for us to know many details. We don’t even know his own personal opinion about the "slavery" and we can not make the mistake of interpreting the rebellion itself outside the first century BC when he lived, as does for example the Marxist interpretation of his figure.

The remembrance of his revolt was kept alive in Roman society for a long time. In more modern times he became a symbol and to evoke Spartacus is to evoke the men’s wish for freedom.

His motto "Freedom or death", repeated so many times by so many people of heroic behavior, reflects in two words the overwhelming desire of every human being to be  his own owner, to be truly man and master of himself.

   
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